In the past year, discussion has grown louder in China over toxic “996” work culture (referring to a work schedule of 9am-9pm, 6 days a week). Some victims of 996 half-jokingly refer to themselves as “human screws,” replaceable units exploited by the capitalist machine.
So it’s understandable that the announcement of a new drama called The Reason I Like Working Overtime was met with scorn.
The drama manages to be out-of-touch not only with the rising theme of toxic work culture, but also of workplace harassment. The story centers around female lead Si Meng, who is struggling to navigate her post-grad professional life. Despite her initial frustrations, her work life is drastically improved by the arrival of a wealthy, attractive male supervisor.
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The drama’s plot has drawn backlash on social media, where users are accusing the drama of glamorizing power abuse in the workplace.
“I recommend a name change for the drama: The Reason Capitalists Love Exploitation,” reads a top Weibo comment criticizing the show’s concept.
Some comments defending the drama have also surfaced online. Under the same Weibo post, a comment read: “I enjoy working overtime so I don’t have to go home to my lazy husband, annoying mother-in-law and help my kids with homework. I can breathe free air, order delivery, and goof off. At the end of the night, I get paid and reimbursed for the taxi home.” Others responded by pointing out that not everyone shares the privilege of receiving overtime pay, and sarcastically recommended for the user to “get a divorce.”
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Some have also drawn a connection between the show and the 2018 Japanese drama, No Working After Hours! Netizens lamented that while media in other countries are seriously reflecting on questions of overwork, Chinese media is still dominated by “corporate propaganda.”
Meanwhile, the other main current of Chinese TV appeals mainly to a desire for escapism. After arriving home from a day of tedious work, viewers engage in romantic fantasies, seeking comfort through dramas like The Untamed and Word of Honor.
Although realist dramas like The Bad Kids and Mining Town have received favorable reviews, struggles with increasingly aggressive state censorship have left the future of Chinese entertainment in an uncertain state.
Cover Image via Steve Ding on Unsplashed
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